Breath & Shadow
A Journal of Disability Culture and LiteratureSpring 2016
By Linda A. Cronin
Three times a week, I come to the pool
at Children’s Specialized Hospital to exercise.
Even in the middle of winter, the warm, moist air
reminds me of the humid days of summer. Since
I’m unable to descend the ladder or to walk on land,
when I am ready Pam transfers me to a stretcher
which is lifted out over the pool then lowered gently
into the water where Sue stands ready to release me.
my head remains above the surface, bobbing.
I relax, taking a deep breath. My arms rise,
levitate like a leaf in a pond,
lift from my sides where they hang,
waiting. My legs awaken, bend and straighten
with a freedom absent on land. Here,
in the water, gravity melts, releases
its pull on my limbs, no longer wrestling me
to the ground. The arthritis that greets me each day
frees me from its grip. Here, for thirty
minutes, I’m free to play with the other kids,
damaged like I am. Free to walk and swim.
To wave my arms and kick my legs without
the start and stop of pain, without the stutters
of bone catching on bone. The ghost of my past self
rediscovers motion, a sensation slipping farther
into the mist of yesterday. When the therapist
signals the session’s end, I take a deep breath
then arch my back and dive under
the water, skim across the checkered tiles
of the pool floor, drinking in the freedom,
a balloon drifting in the breeze. I store
the sensation of floating where motion
does not equal pain. I want to drink
in this feeling, knowing it must last
until I am baptized again.
“Baptism” first appeared in the Spring 2010 issue of Breath and Shadow. Linda was a contributing poetry editor for us from 2005 until 2016, and will be greatly missed.